It's been a weird autumnal migration season here in central Virginia. At the beginning of the month, warmer than usual temperatures seemed to keep migrating species to the north, and then Hurricane Florence moved into area. Some of the migrating birds backed up to the north, waiting for the storm to clear, while other birds moved southwestward and then back to the east, bypassing most of Virginia and the Carolinas. As soon as Florence moved out of the area, there was a flood of migrating hawks and other raptors that moved through central Virginia, but migrating warblers have only been found in small mixed flocks. One of my observations over the past few years is that when there are lots and lots of raptors in the area, there seems to be only a few migrating warblers, perhaps trying to avoid becoming a raptor meal. A few years ago, a lot of the hawk migration was west in the Allegheny Mountains, west of the Shenandoah Valley, and there seemed to be warblers eveywhere in the Blue Ridge Mountains and Piedmont valleys. None of this is backed up with scientific research - just my limited observations.
I met up with Walt Childs and Huck Hutchens at the Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch. Small birds were streaming by, and I got a few photos where I could identify the species.
Cape May Warbler
A distant Sharp-shinned Hawk flew by, and then a couple of Broad-winged Hawks flew close to us, followed by a pair of Ravens.
We then headed south on Route 610, parallel to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and stopped by the old tower, where we saw a few warbler species.
Black and White Warbler
We got onto the parkway at mm. 4, and then stopped at both ends of the cirque near mm. 7.5. We didn't see any warblers there, but saw a few woodland species. Huck heard a cuckoo, but we didn't see it. However, I got a partial photo a a bird that might have been a cuckoo.
We proceeded down to Hickory Springs Overlook at mm. 12, where we saw a few woodland species, and a Red-tailed Hawk that dove down from a tree branch for a meal. I heard the chink call of a Hooded Warbler that has been there all summer.
We headed back to the Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch. We saw more raptors, including immature Broad-winged and Red-tailed Hawks, and a distant Cooper's Hawk. A female American Kestrel flew around a bit, and appeared to be munching on a bug while it circled.
There were a few interesting bugs there as well.
Fall Webworm Caterpillar
Fall Webworm Caterpillar
A warbler(?) flew by, but I couldn't determine the species. It has white wing-bars, a greenish back, and a dark upper tail.
Huck and Walt had to leave, so I headed back up the parkway for another look. It was fairly quiet, but I did find a small, mixed warbler flock at the Humpback Rocks picnic area.
Female Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Hickory Springs Overlook yielded a good close-up shot of a woodchuck (groundhog), and a pair of Turkey Vultures.
Most of the raptors seen at the hawk watch tiday were flying to the east side of the Blue Ridge, so I decided to stop at he VDOT Memorial pull-off from I-64. It's been several years since I did any birding from there. As I approached the pull-off, an unidentifed hawk flwe overhead. There wasn't much to see at the pull-off, but the east end of the parking area overlooked some trees that also had some wild grape vines. Several birds were flitting about there. I could identify Northern Cardinals, Indigo Buntings, and Red-eyed Vireos, but a few others are too difficult for me to identify. Opinons are welcomed.
Unidentified - possibly another Red-Eyed Vireo, but it looks too yellow
Unidentified - warbler(?) with wing-bars, greenish back, and bright yellow undertail coverts
Click here to continue to my September 20 birding report
Unidentified - warbler(?) possibly an immature Cape May